Step 1: Identity & Positioning

verynice_featured_icon_dynamicshadow1-02You’re on this page because you’ve answered “No” to either one of these questions:

  • Have you written down your goals and mission as an organization?
  • Do you have more people than you can count on your hands that know of your idea? (besides your family members)
  • Have strangers discovered your idea and organization’s mission without meeting you in person or contacting you directly?
  • Can you describe your organization’s mission in 140 characters?

Now ask yourself these additional questions to prepare you to the next step:

    • How would you describe your method to achieving your mission, solving the problem?
    • If a stranger asked one of your stakeholders what your organization does, what would you expect their response to be? What should it be?
    • How is your organization different from other similar organizations?


(Task: Read the scenario below to start envisioning yours. Take Notes! *Imagination is key)

Here’s an organization that has confidently achieved Step 1:

       Organization X has written down their mission statement by addressing the specific problems they are solving with their uniquely crafted solution. With a clear mission statement and list of goals, the founder of the organization tests the idea by casually introducing it into conversation with his close network. The founder discovers from the conversations that the organization is perceived in a specific light in the nonprofit industry and often confused with other similar organizations. Seeing the possible confusion and lack of clarity, the founder goes back to the drawing board considering all of the challenging questions and suggestions he received from his conversations. After re-iterating the mapping of the organization (by using the business model canvas as an organizational framework), the founder can make a clear connection of the value the organization provides, who they serve, and how they approach their work. However more importantly, the founder has an even more deeper and clearer understanding of “Why” the organization exists. This becomes the organization’s compelling mission statement that even his closest colleagues can easily remember and repeat.

        The founder continues to micro-pitch the organization in conversations in order to continue to reach clarity, improve the framing of the organization, and test the relevancy with a wide range of people. This helps him understand “Why” the organization is also important for stakeholders who are not beneficiaries of the organization as well. As a result of these open conversations, many people are excited to be a part of the organization’s mission and to support the outgoing founder!


#1 Lesson––Any organization regardless of public or private sector should utilize ‘business model’ tools to strategically create and deliver value to their stakeholders. We strongly believe that:

Business Models Aren’t Just For Businesses! (Task: Read Article)

#2 Activity––You may already have a model, but possibly with loose ends if you haven’t already used the business model canvas to frame your organization’s model yet. Utilize the business model canvas below to map your organization’s model and find areas for opportunity.

 Business Model Canvas For Nonprofits  (Task: Fill Out Activity)

#3 Activity––Creating a business model is a lot like storyboarding your organization’s current and future potential. You’re creating a new story of your organization’s best possible future. Imagine your stakeholders as the main characters, partners as the supporting roles, value propositions as the plot foundation, and so on. Additionally, strive to understand the characters (stakeholders) beyond the basic demographics for a deeper knowledge of behaviors, belief systems, emotions, and aspirations. This higher level of understanding will allow your organization to empathize, connect, and build long-lasting relationships with your stakeholders. The Empathy Map below will help you organize and humanize/characterize your stakeholders.

Empathy Map  (Task: start mapping using these guidelines.*Post-its friendly!)


#4 Activity––How do people reach your services and benefit from your organization? What are the different pathways? Map out all of the unique experiences of your stakeholders (from beneficiaries to donors) to reaching your organization. This will not only help you understand each unique pathway, but also see potential opportunities to improve efficiency. Use the Customer Journey Canvas as a tool:

Customer Journey Canvas (Task: map out your stakeholder pathways) 


These resources have been selected specifically to further guide you in completing the activities above and to continue to apply in the next following steps:

  • The Social Entrepreneur’s Playbook: Pressure Test Your Start-up Idea–Step 1 (Free E-book)
    • This book provides additional stories and frameworks to help nonprofits to “start their ventures with minimum risk and maximum potential for impact”. *Continue to use this book into Step 2 for testing your idea!  (Task: Pay particular attention to the “Tough Love” test in Chapter 1 &  “Ten Attractiveness Features” in Ch. 2)
  • The Original Business Model Generation:


Here’s what you should have by the end of Step 1, before moving onto Step 2:

    • You can clearly articulate your organization’s mission and strategy by explaining your unique solution to a very gnarly problem.
    • You have identified at least 5 stakeholder segments and understand the value each segment expects from your organization.
    • You can list the services and values you contribute for each stakeholder.
    • You know of multiple methods of communicating your organization’s idea beyond speech & on paper.
    • You have explored having more than two revenue streams of only donations and foundation grants. 
    • You have a clear understanding of the qualitative and quantitative value of your organization’s services. You thoroughly understand the cost of the services your organization provides.
    • You can confidently distinguish your organization from other similar organizations. 


Next: Step Two




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